Sunday, 7 February 2010

Different Strokes

As I know from various friends, one reason for respectable hard-working people coming to the Isle of Man is to escape sectarianism or even outright theo-fascism elsewhere. As I discovered yet again this week, they still won’t be safe as long as the Manx government and churches are packed with self-serving bigots.
The latest example can be seen with the apparently innocent announcement in this week’s Courier that regular multilingual orthodox services are being held at St. Matthews in Douglas, with the hint that maybe the Manx community should somehow ‘help’ to establish a local Orthodox priest to cope with the ‘growing demand’.
Except that there isn’t a growing demand because, as in the UK, the number of East European guestworkers has peaked and they’re now returning home. Falling attendances at the local Catholic churches alone show that, never mind work permit figures.
Such ‘demand’ as there is actually comes from another group.
The thing is, St. Matthews is the Manx centre of Forward in Faith/Anglican Mainstream activity. While they will never openly admit it, those who study such oddballs know that what they’d really love, short of controlling the Anglican church, is not defection to the Catholic church (which is big enough to resist their petulance) but a link-up with the even odder Eastern Orthodox gang. And as the Effineffers hold the balance in the Manx synod El Bish has little choice but to meet them halfway if he is not to lose a church or two and some rich but eccentric punters.
It’s also coincidentally funny that the priest is being flown in from Belfast. As if Northern Ireland hadn’t bred enough sectarian hate of its own, it is now cultivating and exporting an East European variety.
Because this, as I discovered when mentioning the article to a Russian friend, is the nub of the matter. Surprisingly, a number of Russian-born Manx residents who have mortgages, good and useful jobs and are here to stay are not Christian but Muslim. They came here because, as Jews before them suffered late 19th century pogroms, the new links between Putin and Orthodox theo-fascists made new and convenient scapegoats of an often relatively secular and moderate Muslim community. So they upped sticks and took their skills instead to a place where Stalinists and priests don’t run the finance sector.
My guess is that the Eastern Orthodox worshippers won’t face the problems of Manx Muslims – no Facebook sites, no mutterings about wierdly bearded foreigners putting up strange and distinctly un-Manx buildings. Which is quite funny, because wierdly bearded folk from here and elsewhere are meeting to celebrate a version of Christianity linked to both past and present fascist activity, and doing it in a listed church designed by a notable 19th century architect. Meanwhile, business people join quietly with a few doctors from the Asian subcontinent to worship in a garage. Not a veil or burqa in sight either, from what I hear, and the women are differentiated from locals only by their designer clothes.

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